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Environmental, Campaign & Website News > Chile disobeys Biodiversity treaty

Chile disobeys Biodiversity treaty

Date : 8th Apr 2002, Source : Santiago Times

April 3, 2002

A national environmental group said Monday that it will accuse Chile's government of failing to comply with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) during a meeting of the treaty's signatory states next week. The Southern Chilean Environmental Law Center (CEADA) is calling for international condemnation of President Ricardo Lagos' government for not supporting forest biodiversity.

The organization says Chile's native forests are being rapidly replaced by exotic species used by wood companies. The government's failure to protect native forests, the CEADA says, puts the world's second largest temperate rainforest at risk.

Southern central Chile's Valdivian forest makes up one-third of the world's temperate rainforests. "We do not know if the Chilean government can give any justifiable excuse to the other signatory nations for its lack of compliance with the Convention during the more than seven years since the CBD was ratified. What is certain is that CEADA will be present at [next week's meeting] to explain the causes of the Chilean government's failure," CEADA President Miguel Fredes said.

Fredes said Chile ranks among the worst countries in the world in terms of its legal protection of forest biodiversity.

"While the Chilean government has frequently been upheld as an example of commercial and political advances relative to other developing countries, its record regarding the CBD puts Chile in the same deplorable condition as countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, India, Kenya and Papa New Guinea," he said. Chile signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994. The treaty requires participating states to monitor biodiversity, establish protected wilderness areas, promote sustainable development and limit the introduction of foreign species.

Next week's meeting, which begins Monday, will be hosted in the Hague, Netherlands, and will last two weeks. It is the sixth conference of member countries since the convention was signed. Representatives will receive reports from subsidiary agencies, review implementation of programs and discuss biodiversity issues including sustainable forestry and exotic species.

Fredes will present a report at the meeting outlining the CEADA's findings. The document is part of an effort by the Global Forest Coalition, an international alliance of environmental organizations, to double-check forest biodiversity programs in the 21 countries that signed the treaty. A draft of the report was provided to the Santiago Times. The report says Chile has not developed a national strategy to maintain biodiversity in its forests and to develop sustainable forest exploitation. Implementing a national forest program is required by the international convention.

The convention also requires a national biodiversity strategy and a government action plan, which establishes a timeline for compliance with the treaty. According to a comparative study by the Global Forest Coalition, Chile was the only country that did not enact either of these two programs.

The Lagos administration has not even begun the early steps of forming the two groups.

Still, CEADA said the government's National Commission for the Environment (CONAMA) was making progress on developing a biodiversity strategy.

CEADA said the fact that the Congress has not yet passed the Native Forest Protection Law has seriously set back attempt to develop the strategy. The bill, which has been held up for more than 10 years in deliberations, would grant incentives for maintaining native forests. Business leaders and rightist politicians say the bill is too extreme in limiting forestry activity, while environmentalists say the protections are too weak.

The CEADA report also criticizes the 1992 Indigenous Law, which gives indigenous communities ownership rights over their ancestral lands. CEADA said the communities depend upon and contribute to sustainable development in Chile's forests.

Still, the organization says the law doesn't effectively promote such activities. Protection of indigenous cultures with a tradition of sustainable environmental practices is required by the biodiversity convention.

"The Indigenous Law offers limited recognition of indigenous customs, so that said protection does not clearly and explicitly refer to indigenous teachings, practices or innovations that incorporate traditional ways of life pertaining to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity according to the mandates of the CDB," CEADA said.

Indigenous rights activists have been struggling to gain control of native lands, which were sold to forestry companies in southern central Chile during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 17- year military government. The activists say the government has returned only a limited amount of these lands.

CEADA also accused Conama of failing to respond to the organization's questionnaires related to government biodiversity efforts.

Chile has some 13.4 hectares of native forests and 2.1 hectares of forestry plantations. About 90 percent of the commercial forests are planted with the Monterrey Pine, which was imported from California.

The United States is the principle importer of Chilean wood products. The country imported 19.6 percent of Chilean forestry exports in 2000. Chilean environmentalists fear that a free trade agreement with the U.S., which is expected to be finalized later this year, will lead to explosive growth in Chilean forestry exports.

The U.S. International Trade Commission predicted that Chile's timber production will double by 2025, according to a 1999 report.

Document last updated on Wednesday 01 August 2018

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